Book Launch: Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps at the Munich Readery – January 14, 7-8:30 pm

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Book Launch & Reading at the Munich Readery:
Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps
Saturday January 14, 2017 * 7:00 – 8:30 pm
The Munich Readery, Augustenstraße 104, 80798 München

Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps, has just been released on Kindle Books and in Print by Spider Road Press. In Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” two people from different classes, a taxi driver called Tamal-da and his well-to-do passenger meet under unusual circumstances. Stuck together in a flood in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata, Tamal entertains his bored, out-of-town passenger by telling her the story of his life. As he explains how he ended up hustling the mean streets of Kolkata, how he abandoned his rural village, and why he left his family of fishers behind, Tamal spins a tale that is both mundane and fantastic. Built on the tradition of Bengali ghost stories, Tamal’s coming-of-age tale depends as much on the supernatural as on the possibility or impossibility of human connection.

“Two novellas stand especially tall: A Night with Kali, by Rita Banerjee, begins with a taxi ride through Kolkata during a monsoon and soon develops into an entertaining story-in-a-story supernatural tale reminiscent of classic Indian literature.  In 136 Auburn Lane, novelist Donna Hillevokes a mysterious Harlem boarding house in the 1930’s, where a down-and-out woman has one final chance to rescue her pitiful existence.” -Gay Yellen

“’A Night with Kali’” by Rita Banerjee was a pair of ghost stores-within stories-within a story, set in Kolkata and the surrounding villages. The voice was distinct but unobtrusive and created a cozy familiarity with the narrator. The setting was also particularly vivid, but never got bogged down in exposition – rather, well-placed details sprinkled throughout made me feel like I’d lived in the area all my life. This was my favorite of the four, partly because it was the most upbeat. That may sound strange for a ghost story, but it works.” – MJL

Biography:

RitaBanerjeeRita Banerjee’s received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington.  Her writing also appears in Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, The Rumpus, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Hyphen Magazine, Mass Poetry. AWP WC&C Quarterly, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Riot Grrrl Magazine, Poets for Living Waters, The Monarch Review, The Fiction Project, on KBOO Radio’s APA Compass, and elsewhere. Her first collection of poems, Cracklers at Night (Finishing Line Press), received First Honorable Mention for Best Poetry Book of 2011-2012 at the Los Angeles Book Festival, and her novella, A Night with Kali, in Approaching Footsteps (Spider Road Press), released in November 2016. Finalist for the 2015 Red Hen Press Benjamin Saltman Award and the 2016 Aquarius Press Willow Books Literature Award, she is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and collection of lyric essays.

Rita Banerjee’s essay “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” feat. on Poets & Writers Ampersand Podcast

pw-ampersandpodcastIn the latest episode of the Ampersand Podcast, Poets & Writers editors and cohosts Kevin Larimer and Melissa Faliveno discuss the January/February issue’s section on inspiration, The Darkness and the Light, in which contributors Frank Bures, Melissa Febos, Jay Baron Nicorvo, Nancy M. Williams, Kevin Simmonds, and Rita Banerjee engage with sometimes difficult material and find inspiration in the darkness.  The podcast also includes “Shadows of Words,” the twelfth annual look at debut poets, including Ari Banias, Jana Prikryl, Carolina Ebeid, Solmaz Sharif, Phillip B. Williams, Eleanor Chai, and Justin Boening, as well as Ocean Vuong, Safiya Sinclair, and Tommy Pico, who read poems from their debut collections.  Editor Melissa Faliveno introduces Banerjee’s article on rasa theory with the quote: “Rasa is a shot to the heart, it’s a festering wound, it’s the mind at unrest, and it is nobody’s captive. It can be dangerous.  It’s the moment where you loose yourself and loosen, and find in your body the first stirrings of emotion.”  To hear the full podcast, check out Ampersand here.

Rita Banerjee’s essay, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory,” now available in Poets & Writers Magazine

Rita Banerjee’s essay, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” now appears in the January/February 2017 Inspiration Issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.  An excerpt from the article follows below:

“Rasa theory centers on taste. Not taste in the sense of sophistication or composure or discernment. Not taste in the sense of good or bad. But taste in its most primal, animalistic, emotive, and provocative form.

Rasa is what happens to you, spectator, reader, part-time lover, when you watch or read a work of art with intensity. Rasa is the flavor of the art experience. It is the feeling produced in the viewer when a work of art is at its most potent and devastating form. Rasa is the immediate, unfettered emotional reaction produced in the spectator when a work of art has left her breathless or yearning for more. Rasa means to savor, to bring a work of art within the body, to let words linger on the tongue. Rasa is a shot to the heart, it’s a festering wound, it’s the mind at unrest, and it is nobody’s captive. It can be dangerous. It can be pleasurable. A visceral form of taste, rasa tends to resist cultivation and containment. Rasa is what happens to you when you find yourself spellbound and alone, and completely enraptured by a work of art for just a moment. It’s where the emotional, narrative, and lyrical landscape of a work washes over, prickles, or consumes you. It’s the moment where you loose yourself and loosen, and find in your body the first stirrings of emotion…”

To read the full article, please check your local bookstores for the current issue of Poets & Writers Magazine or visit Poets & Writers here.

Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction – Munich Readery Workshop – January 7 [SOLD OUT]

EmotionandSuspense

Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction [SOLD OUT]
Saturday January 7, 2017 * 9:00-12:00

The Munich ReaderyAugustenstraße 104, 80798 München

Plato argues that human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.  And before staging Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Śākuntalā, the director challenges his actress-lover: “As though in a painting, the entire audience has had their emotion colored through your melody.  So now—what shall we perform to sustain the mood?”  In this class, we will explore how creating vivid emotional worlds between characters and within storylines can build suspense, sustain drama, and lure the reader deeper in. If you’re currently working on a short story, novel, screenplay, theatrical play, lyrical essay, memoir, or narrative poem which has a unique emotional landscape, come stop by the Munich Readery on Saturday January 7 for our next creative writing workshop led by Rita Banerjee.  Rita Banerjee’s article, “Emotion and Suspense: The Essence of Rasa Theory” appears in the January/February 2017 Inspiration Issue of Poets & Writers MagazineTo register, send an email to John by January 2, 2017 at: store@themunichreadery.com. Workshop Fee: €30.  This workshop is SOLD OUT.

 

New Interview: “Behind the Story: Author and Scholar Rita Banerjee on ‘A Night with Kali'”

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Recently, Jody T. Morse of Spider Road Press, sat down with author Rita Banerjee to discuss the release of her new novella, “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps.  During the interview, Morse asked Banerjee about the inspiration for her novella, the structure and unique characters of her story, and what Banerjee is working on next.  An excerpt of the interview follows below:

Spider Road Press: “A Night with Kali,” is a captivating story. How did the concept for this piece come to you? Or, maybe a better question might be, what inspired you to write about Tamal-da and Didi?

Rita: When I first drafted this novella, I created the story of Tamal-da and Didi in a storm. In a week off between writing chapters of my dissertation on South Asian literary modernisms, I decided to take a break and write something with ferocity. There is something seductive about the idea of the uncanny, the sense of discomfort that appears in suspense novellas, sure, but also that strange tension between two people who meet but never quite see each other fully until it’s too late. Tamal, being a streetwise taxi driver, and his passenger, whom he calls Didi, being a bored out-of-towner obsessed with Marxist poets, makes for an uneasy alliance. They are trapped together in a cab and stranded in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata. To pass the time, they entertain each other with stories. What happens next is uncanny, unbelievable, and strangely seductive.

SRP: And we love their dynamic! Thank you for bring them to life in our imaginations. In our opinion, A Night with Kali is a story within a story. Did you find it challenging to write such an intricate tale? And, for our readers that are writers, were there any particular hurdles or revelations about this choice and process that you could share? 

Rita: From the Pañcatantra to the Arabian Nights to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, I’ve always been interested in stories within stories—with narratives that stop, tunnel, re-start, take you down a rabbit hole and bring you back more alive.

SRP: What’re you working on these days—both in writing and in personal ventures?

Rita: I’m actively working on a few book projects—a book on mid-20th century South Asian poetry and theories of the avant-garde, Echo in Four Beats, my second poetry collection on jazz, mythology, and the breakdown of language, and two new creative writing manuscripts which are currently taking over my life. The first is a collection of non-fiction lyric essays, centered on the concepts of race, sex, politics, and cool, and why I’m completely obsessed with interrogating these ideas as a writer, artist, and human navigating the world. The second book I’m currently working on is what seems like a now eerily prescient novel about a girl named Mel Cassin. Mel lives in a near-future America run by a plutocratic totalitarian regime in which arbitrary laws for the non-elite are normative. Mel faces a conundrum—to pursue what has happened to her family, or to continue existing in an authoritarian world.

Full interview available at “Behind the Story: Author and Scholar Rita Banerjee on ‘A Night with Kali.'” 

Asian American Arts Alliance – Art for Change Meeting – December 8, 7-9 pm * Brooklyn, NY

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Art for Change Discussion & Panel
December 8th, 7 – 9:30 pm
Asian American Arts Alliance, 20 Jay Street, Suite 740, Dumbo, Brooklyn 11201

In the wake of the last election, how can we, as artists and arts professionals, empower ourselves?  API leaders from New York City arts organizations will discuss the changing political and social climate and what they think art has the power to do and can do in the coming months. This convening will create a space for the community to gather and collectively brainstorm how to harness artists’ power to change and mediate the discourse in society.  The hour-long panel discussion will be followed by a facilitated breakout session with attendees and a share out. 

Moderator:
Christine Toy Johnson

Panelists:
Rita Banerjee, Executive Director, Kundiman
Devin Oshiro, Artistic Associate, Gibney Dance
Kyoung Park, Artistic Director, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat
Jesca Prudencio, Associated Artist, Ping Chong + Company

Book Release: Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps now available in Print & on Kindle Books!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00068]Rita Banerjee’s novella, “A Night with Kali,” in Approaching Footsteps, has just been released on Kindle Books and in print!  In Rita Banerjee’s novella, A Night with Kali, two people from different classes, a taxi driver called Tamal-da and his well-to-do passenger meet under unusual circumstances. Stuck together in a flood in the middle of a monsoon hitting Kolkata, Tamal entertains his bored, out-of-town passenger by telling her the story of his life. As he explains how he ended up hustling the mean streets of Kolkata, how he abandoned his rural village, and why he left his family of fishers behind, Tamal spins a tale that is both mundane and fantastic. Built on the tradition of Bengali ghost stories, Tamal’s coming-of-age tale depends as much on the supernatural as on the possibility or impossibility of human connection.  On Approaching Footsteps, the following reviewers write:

“Four novellas and a wealth of bonus flash fiction stories make Approaching Footsteps a collection that a reader can dip into anytime. Two novellas stand especially tall: A Night with Kali, by Rita Banerjee, begins with a taxi ride through Kolkata during a monsoon and soon develops into an entertaining story-in-a-story supernatural tale reminiscent of classic Indian literature.  In 136 Auburn Lane, novelist Donna Hillevokes a mysterious Harlem boarding house in the 1930’s, where a down-and-outwoman has one final chance to rescue her pitiful existence.” -Gay Yellen, author of The Body Business and The Body NextDoor

“’A Night with Kali’” by Rita Banerjee was a pair of ghost stores-within stories-within a story, set in Kolkata and the surrounding villages. The voice was distinct but unobtrusive and created a cozy familiarity with the narrator. The setting was also particularly vivid, but never got bogged down in exposition – rather, well-placed details sprinkled throughout made me feel like I’d lived in the area all my life. This was my favorite of the four, partly because it was the most upbeat. That may sound strange for a ghost story, but it works.” – MJL

“Emotion & Suspense in Theatre, Poetry, and (Non)Fiction” – CCAE Workshop – December 3

EmotionandSuspenseEmotion and Suspense in Theatre,
Poetry, and (Non)Fiction
Saturday December 3 * 10 am – 1 pm

Cambridge Center for Adult Education
42 Brattle St, Cambridge, MA 02138

Plato argues that human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.  And before staging Kalidasa’s The Recognition of Śākuntalā, the director challenges his actress-lover: “As though in a painting, the entire audience has had their emotion colored through your melody.  So now—what shall we perform to sustain the mood?”  In this class, we will explore how creating vivid emotional worlds between characters and within storylines can build suspense, sustain drama, and lure the reader deeper in. If you’re currently working on a short story, novel, screenplay, theatrical play, lyrical essay, memoir, or narrative poem which has a unique emotional landscape, come stop by the CCAE for the next Cambridge Writers’ Workshop craft of writing seminar led by Rita Banerjee.  To register, please sign up  at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education.  Workshop Fee: $40.  More info about the workshop series available at Cambridge Writers’ Workshop.

Kundiman Gala Benefit honoring Kimiko Hahn & Elda Rotor * November 19, 6-8 pm * Lincoln Center

kundimanbenefit2016-inviteKundiman is a literary arts nonprofit organization dedicated to the creation, cultivation, and promotion of Asian American Literature.  On Saturday November 19, from 6-8 pm, Kundiman will be honoring critically claimed poet Kimiko Hahn and Penguin Classics editor Elda Rotor at the annual Kundiman Gala Benefit.  The Gala Benefit will take place in Bateman Hall at the Fordham Law School at Lincoln Center.  Join Kundiman for an elegant evening dedicated to supporting the next generation of Asian American writers.  The Gala Benefit at Lincoln Center will include hors d’oeuvres, sake tasting, music and creative writing performances, and a silent auction.  Festive attire is suggested!  Fore more information on how to buy tickets or help support Kundiman, please visit here.

Rita Banerjee’s “Chicago Ode” – A Mass Poetry: Poem of the Moment

masspoetry-poemofthemoment
Many thanks to Mass Poetry for featuring Rita Banerjee’s poem, “Chicago Ode,” in their Poem of the Moment section.  Mass Poetry supports poets and poetry in Massachusetts.  Mass Poetry helps ro broaden the audience of poetry readers, brings poetry to readers of all ages and transform people’s lives through inspiring verse.  A copy of the poem is included below, and you can read the full poem on Mass Poetry here.


Chicago Ode

You came quiet on
cat feet with
disregard
for minor names

Like architecture,
you remained
aortal and stung—

Colors dropped
off grids and arcs
bending like yellow,
red and unglued blue

You moved like
a river under
Boul Mich elevated
trains

undulated space,
kept sails and lovers
lit on harbor.

like bodies lit
on grass, you stood
unlike bronze

unlike concrete, too
contained in no
form, no limb
that would move

like fever
your eyes grew
catlike, calling to
strange bodies,

locking lakes in land,
you asked time to
sneeze, hiccup, to not
speak at all—

asked to linger no
longer or to
stay longer like

cracklers at night,
the firework’s parched
breath & Ferris wheel
lights that held

like ships & whistles
a cradle
without thread.

* Read the poem on Mass Poetry here.